Bethany did not remember falling asleep, but she woke up in the same midnight blue room from before, wrapped in the same heavy comforter in the same bed. She sat up and stretched and looked around. Sunlight was pouring in through the open curtains, and it seemed like a bright day outside.
She felt good. She felt well-rested in mind as well as body. She had no idea what today would be like yet, but for the first time in a long time, she felt like she was ready to handle a day. She scratched her scalp vigorously with both hands until her hair was a frizzy cloud of curls. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom to freshen up and laughed at her frizzy reflection in the mirror. Once again made use of the small list of toiletries that Adriel had brought her, and then made her way out into the living room.
Adriel was not there. She checked the kitchen. No Adriel there, either, but when she went to get some orange juice, she found a note on the refrigerator door.
“Good Morning!” it began. Adriel had very nice handwriting, but he printed in all caps. “I hope you are rested. I have a task for you today. Go to the shelter and retrieve your belongings. There, you will get further instructions. Follow your instincts, and try to be back here by 7:00 p.m.” It was signed simply “A,” and there was a bus pass taped to the bottom of the note.
She figured she should go and get her bag from the lockers at the shelter. She had no idea how long they held stuff for guests that had been missing for several days. But what was that about further instructions? Did Adriel know someone at the shelter? She folded the note into her pocket, opened the fridge and grabbed the orange juice.
Twenty minutes later, she was stepping outside into the crisp autumn air. There was a chill, but there was enough sunlight to make it feel warmer than it was. She looked around and realized she had only a vague idea of her location. She felt uneasy about leaving the house. It was nice to have a place of security, but she reminded herself that she didn’t really know the guy that had brought her here very well, and he probably hadn’t planned on her staying for too long. He himself said he didn’t plan to stay much longer. What had he said? 73 hours? How much time had passed since he said that? He had also said that she would not be returning to the streets unless she wanted to. She hoped that meant that she could stay, at least for another night. The note did say she was to return by 7:00. She hoped he would be here when she got back. As nice an entity as he seemed, he was beyond strange. She couldn’t expect him to be reliable. She might come back, and he’d be here, with dinner on the table. Or she might come back and find the doors locked and the place empty. Hell, she figured, she might come back and the building itself wouldn’t be there. She had no idea what to expect, considering how off the rails things had gone over the last… what had it been? At least twenty-four hours. She figured she had met Adriel in the park a day ago, around 3:00 a.m. or so, then she had slept, woken up, and slept again. It was around 10:00 a.m. now, so that’s thirty-one hours. She’d only known this guy for 31 hours, and in that time, he had basically changed her entire outlook on life. He could still also be certifiably insane, she figured, but whatever. She felt good, she had on clean underwear, and whatever happened now, happened.
She walked down the street until she came to a bus stop. She checked the route and figured she could be downtown in fifteen minutes. As she waited for the bus, she thought more about the last 31 hours, about how she had ended up here, about all that reincarnation stuff Adriel (or whoever he was) had told her. She knew it sounded crazy, but for some reason, it also made sense to her. She had read a lot about NDEs – Near-Death Experiences – and ‘crazy’ topics like reincarnation. She had always been interested in that sort of thing. Even as a child, on library day at her school, she had always checked out books on the paranormal and unexplained. Ghosts, UFOs, ESP, the Bermuda Triangle, all of it had been her cup of tea.
The bus came by and she got on. She used the bus pass that Adriel had left for her. As she moved to an empty seat, she eyed the faces of other passengers and her hand instinctively went into the front pocket of her hoodie. She still had her knife. As she watched the scenery move by outside, she saw the famous Pittsburgh skyline come into view, the bright autumn sun reflecting brightly off the Glass Building at PPG Place. She had always liked that building. She vaguely wondered what day it was. If it was Sunday and the Steelers were in town, then traffic would be a shit show. As they got closer to Penn Station, however, she could see that traffic was light. It was Friday morning. She wondered where Adriel was, if he hadn’t been in the house. She had knocked on a couple of the other bedroom doors, but there had been no reply and she didn’t feel comfortable opening closed doors… just in case. In case of what, she didn’t know, but regardless of if he was really from another world, or just bat-shit crazy, she figured it was best not to pry.
She hopped off the bus and decided to walk to the shelter. It was a nice day, and despite them having her bag (hopefully, they still had it), she was in no hurry to see the place again. When she did finally reach the shelter, she walked up to the reception desk. All of the scratches, cracks, and holes were poorly hidden behind posters with phone numbers and messages about domestic violence, drug addiction, and rape. All of the posters together were just one ugly red word: ABUSE. Speaking of, Bethany was looking cautiously around to see if the women who had stolen her shoulder bag were anywhere around. The common area looked almost empty. She figured most of the homeless were taking advantage of the nice weather, a chance to get outside and hustle, take care of some business. As she stepped up to reception, she recognized one of the two ladies working there.
Emily’s tired eyes looked up from her Cosmo magazine. “Oh, hey… Bethany! Right?”
“Yep, that’s me.”
“Where have you been?” Emily asked. “We had to give your bed away two nights ago, we hadn’t seen you in over a week.”
“I know, that’s OK,” Bethany said, hands still nestled in the front pocket of her hoodie.
“Are you doing alright?” Emily asked, and although she was obligated to ask, her tone said she was genuinely concerned. “I heard about what happened with the ladies…”
Bethany shook her head, shaking it off. “Nah, it’s okay, just one of those things.”
Emily gave her a dejected look. “I hear you. Still…” her question trailed off. Really, where could it go? She finally just said, “What can we do for you?”
“I was just wondering if you still had my backpack here,” Bethany said.
“Did you leave a bag with us?”
“I put it in a locker, but that was a few days before I left,” she reached into her pants pocket. “Here’s the key.” She tossed a key on a coiled loop onto the desk. Emily picked it up and looked at it.
“Alright, let me check.” She stood up slowly and went to a closet door behind the desk, a storage room where they kept abandoned items. Bethany waited. The other receptionist, a face she didn’t recognize, was looking up at her from behind the computer. Bethany was about to say ‘hi’ when Emily emerged from the storage room, holding her blue backpack by a strap. She set it down beside her chair.
“Well, we got this out of the locker, but I’m afraid you have to show ID to claim it. The locker was reserved with it.”
A moment of panic went through Bethany as she realized she wasn’t sure where her wallet was, but her hand went to the side pocket of her new pants and found it without trouble. She barely remembered putting it in there before heading out. “Sure,” she said, breathing a small sigh of relief. “Here you go.”
The other receptionist leaned over, her chair behind the computer creaking in agony. “Is that Bethany Kendrick?”
“Yes, it is,” Emily said, checking the license and handing it back. She hefted the backpack onto the desk. “Here you go, sweetie.”
“The police have been calling for you,” the other receptionist said. “You supposed to contact them.” She took a card from under the keyboard and read it. “Officer Barrett at the 6th Precinct.” She handed the card to Bethany, eyeing her like she knew she was a criminal.
“Thanks, Bethany said, taking the card and slipping it into her front pocket next to the knife. Yep, she felt like a criminal the way that woman was looking at her, but she was glad to be reminded about her appointment with the police. With all that she had been thinking about lately, that memory had fallen to the wayside.
“Are you in any trouble?” Emily asked. “Is this about the ladies that jumped you?”
“No,” Bethany answered. “I just had some trouble in the park the other night, and the police are helping me.”
Now Emily looked concerned. “What kind of trouble?” she asked. “Were you hurt?”
Bethany almost told her what had happened, but there was so much that went along with it that she really couldn’t get into all of the business with Adriel. So she just said, “No, I mean… I almost was, but the police showed up in time and took me in. I’ve sort of been in police custody, and now I’m staying with a friend.”
“Oh you poor thing!” Emily said. “You’ve had a rough run lately, huh? You sure you’re okay now?”
Bethany smiled and nodded. “Oh yeah,” she said, taking her backpack and slinging it over her shoulder. “Everything worked out for the best.”
Emily smiled. “Well, that’s what we like to hear.”
“But you get in touch with those police,” the other woman said. “They might have something for you.”
“I will,” Bethany said. “In fact, I’m on my way over there now.”
“Good,” Emily sat back. “If you ever need any help, we’ll be here for you.”
“Thank you,” Bethany said. She felt like there should be more, so she extended her hand over the desk. “Thank you for everything. You do good work.”
Emily beamed, and sat forward, taking her hand. “Tell your friends!” she said.
“Or don’t,” said the other. “We have our hands full as it is!” Bethany glanced at her, but she was smiling. She meant well.
Outside in the sunshine again, Bethany took stock of her belongings. The backpack seemed intact, and everything was accounted for, although it wasn’t much. A few changes of clothing, assorted toiletries, a pair of Bobo sneakers. She found a pack of breath mints in a side pocket and popped one into her mouth. Looking across the street at the shelter, she could see two of the women who had attacked her sharing a cigarette. They didn’t seem to notice her. She wanted to shout at them, extend a finger and a loud “Fuck you, you skanky bitches!” but realized that would be an insult to bitches, and besides, she really didn’t care about them at all. She hefted her bag and went on her way. As she walked, back on the streets with a pack on her back, she thought about the past few months, and how it had been to travel this way with nowhere to go. It is really a horrible feeling. She was happy to think that at least she could go back to the townhouse near Highland Park, at least for tonight. She really hoped Adriel would still be there. She wondered what she would do if he wasn’t, if all of this had been a horrible trick, but she remembered a few things he had said, and she felt that it was safe to assume he would be there. He had said she didn’t have to go back to the streets, he had said she needed to be rested for what’s to come. And he hadn’t tried to put any moves on her. These things made it seem like he was going to keep her around for a bit. And he had said that he had two rules he lived by, and one of them was to never hurt anyone else. She had believed him when he said it, and he certainly hadn’t been anything but good to her since they had met. He had also said that they wouldn’t be staying at that house for much longer. She wondered where they would be going. She hoped it was ‘they’…
She walked into the police station – it looked a little different in broad daylight than it did at 4 a.m. after being assaulted – and handed her bag to the desk sergeant. She also showed Officer Barrett’s business card and was directed to a seat in the waiting area. Barrett wasn’t on duty yet, but had left instructions that if Bethany showed up, she wanted to be called in. All Bethany could do was wait.
Mageia Geist sat in the comfy chair, quietly waiting for the young woman to find Adriel’s note and be on her way. Adriel sat on the sofa across from her, watching her watch the woman. Mageia did not want to stay here any longer than she had to. She didn’t like this frequency. It put her in a bad mood. There was just so much noise here now. It was like listening to too many radio stations playing over each other at the same time, with static and the piercing squelch of feedback cutting in at all the worst moments. This world was becoming an unstable mess. Hopefully, if what Adriel had been telling her was correct, they would not have to be here much longer. She watched the woman drink a small glass of orange juice, and then waited as she washed the glass out in the sink before setting it upside-down on the drain board. She then walked past, brushing her curly hair down as she re-read the note and disappeared down the hallway. How long will it take this woman to leave she wondered. She looked over at Adriel, who was just smiling at her with that beatific smile of his. So certain he was. She hoped he was right. Almost imperceptibly, she raised her chin at him, and removed a small, smooth, black object from her pocket, like a polished stone. He nodded, producing a similar device. Sliding their fingers up along the smooth edges of these objects, their environment wavered, faded, the surroundings changed as the light and colors broke apart like a reflection in a pool broken by a pebble, and they were in the map room. The townhouse living room, with all of its basic adornments, had vanished, and now they were surrounded by beautiful multicolored holograms indicating many different realms, different times, some accessible, many not yet. The ones that could be accessed had what appeared to be glowing gemstones indicating location markers that could be tuned to this central frequency which they now occupied. The walls of this space were red glass, and the ceiling seemed to float above them, not connected to any of it, like a tremendous network of the most brilliant chandeliers ever hung in open space. Their colors were dazzling, reflecting a spectrum that remained invisible to the human eyes of the lower frequency. Just being here made Mageia feel calmer, more at peace – even happy, if she ever thought she was happy. It’s hard to feel single emotions, like trying to hear a single voice in a crowd of thousands. The smooth stones they had used to get here were now a dark, translucent blueish-baeltine color, a color indescribable to the lower frequency.
Adriel raised his eyebrows at her, still smiling that peaceful smile. Speak freely?
She gave another almost imperceptible nod. Yes.
“That girl is a prime candidate,” Adriel said softly. Far above, the vibrant spectrum seemed to tingle, again like delicate chandeliers, or bejeweled gossamer spider webs touched by a breeze, allowing shards of the purest light behind them to shine through. The effect made Mageia’s mind tingle. She felt herself returning Adriel’s smile. Here, it was infectious, and she wanted to feel annoyed by that, but she just couldn’t.
“I hope you are right,” Mageia said. “We haven’t been having much luck, and our time there is growing short.”
“She has a strong ability,” Adriel said. “The night I met her, she was burning so brightly. If I hadn’t intervened, blocked her mind from going to her knife, she would have killed at least one of her attackers, and the change to her emotional frequency would have…”
“Been very unfortunate,” Mageia said. “Yes, if she had killed one of them.” She eyed Adriel. “Do you really think she would have been able to do it?” she made a wringing gesture with her hands.
“She carries a blade,” Adriel said, watching Mageia’s hands with a feeling of uneasiness. The female energies could be so lethal. And humans behind the veil think it’s the men that should be feared.
“A blade?” Mageia said. “That one? Has she used it before?”
“No. She has only carried it since she fell from her social standing. Purely for defense.”
“A blade is an interesting choice,” she said. “Don’t most people there prefer guns?”
Adriel just shrugged. Such things did not really interest him. “Does it matter?”
“Only if she uses it,” Mageia said. “Try to take it from her at your earliest convenience. I’d rather there be no errors in judgment on her part, although that lot are infamous for their errors in judgment. It defines them.”
“Not all of them,” Adriel pointed out.
“What has she told you so far?”
“Only that she is strong, but doesn’t realize it,” Adriel said. “She has a long record.”
“Yes,” Mageia agreed. “I did see that. Someone with that length of an intact record must be able to recall more than she realizes. Have you been able to isolate any genuine memories from her?”
“Quite a few,” he replied. “She carries a lot near the surface but won’t recall them. I believe there must be some sort of subconscious block.”
“Fear?” Mageia’s energy went up.
Adriel thought about this. “I do not think it is a construct of fear,” he said. “I get the feeling it is there out of a sense of necessity.”
Mageia’s left eyebrow received an involuntary jolt from her brain. Damn it, she thought. It’s hard to explain, but to her, that was the equivalent of letting a tiny fart escape in a business meeting. What Adriel had just said had intrigued her a bit, and that had surprised her. He had noticed, and politely continued his assessment before she had to acknowledge it.
“It’s as though she is not afraid of those memories, but she cannot be bothered by them if she wishes to function without distraction in her current environment.”
“And why do you think she would be bothered by them?”
“She has a lifelong interest in things outside of her current realm,” he said, and as soon as he said it, he noticed a small dimming of Mageia’s interest.
“So do many of that race,” she said. “Nearly all of them have at least a fragment of the Unity stored in their higher memory. It is no indicator of a reason for motivation. Some people just like the mystery.”
That beatific smile returned to Adriel’s face. “She sees troodons,” he said, and a vibration went through the sparkling spectrum high overhead, the colors flashing so vibrantly that it seemed to lower a bit, as though it, too, were taking an interest in their conversation.
“Troodons?” Mageia said, her voice now picking up the vibration that had traveled above. “How do you know? She couldn’t have told you this.”
“Not consciously, no,” he said, “but the images were there, if fleetingly, just enough to respond to a book that I showed her.”
“Well, if that’s true,” Mageia said, sitting back. Her eyes drifting across the room to a certain hologram. He knew why her eyes went there. “She is an old one, isn’t she?” Mageia said, almost to herself.
“I don’t think her social fall was an accident,” Adriel said. “She is smart, she is capable, and she is very strong. I think her life is reflecting a larger history.”
“She has fallen before,” Mageia’s eyes stayed fixed on the distant hologram, but her head was nodding. Adriel knew that for Mageia, this was her practically screaming with excitement.
They sat for a while, meditating together. Their minds moved across the room, up around holograms, searching, mapping, looking for previous connections that may not have been clear before this new information had come to light. Gradually, they stopped, and floated up to the elaborate network of spectrums high overhead. They waited. They thought deeply. They drifted back down into their incarnated forms, and both opened their eyes. At last, Mageia had a decision.
Either way, she was saying, we have no time. Lift the veil for her.
Lift the veil for her came as a brilliant burst of light, an epiphany of color, and Adriel was back in the townhouse living room. Mageia was gone. So that was it.
Bethany would be crossing over.